The man who wouldn’t back down: Cabot Martin, dead at 78

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While making his debut in public life in the 1970s, Cabot Martin would remain active, commentating on local politics and industry for the rest of his life. (Radio Canada)

Cabot Martin, one of the architects of the Atlantic accord, has passed away.

Martin was legal adviser to the provincial government in the 1970s and senior policy adviser to Premier Brian Peckford in the 1980s.

Many of Martin’s legal arguments laid the foundation for the modern offshore industry in the province and the joint management of the resource by Newfoundland and Labrador and the federal government.

He has remained publicly active in the province in recent years as a vocal opponent of the Muskrat Falls project.

Martin passed away on Friday. He was 78 years old.

As an adviser to the Peckford government, Martin pushed for local management of the offshore oil industry. “Maybe less people would have caved in, but Cabot didn’t,” former prime minister Tom Rideout recalled. (Radio Canada)

Tom Rideout remembers Martin not only as one of the architects of the Atlantic Accord, but also as the driving force behind it.

“The screws have been tightened on Newfoundland to take us away from our ownership position,” Rideout said.

The former prime minister said Pierre Trudeau’s government of the 1970s and 1980s didn’t want Newfoundland and Labrador to control offshore oil, and at the time he had a Supreme Court ruling to support his claim.

Ron Penney was Deputy Minister at the time. He said Martin was unwavering in his assertion that the province owned the resource.

“It was very, very difficult. Negotiations. Cabot, he was a brilliant guy with a background in law and geology. So he really brought a lot to the process.”

Rideout said it was Cabot Martin who advised the provincial government, drafted the documents and fought for control alongside Premier Brian Peckford.

“That was our vision. And Cabot Martin was one of the driving forces behind it. You know, maybe lesser people would have caved in, but Cabot didn’t. Then Peckford and the government, I think to their credit, took his advice and didn’t buckle.”

Cabot Martin, author of Muskrat Madness, was among the earliest and most vocal opponents of the Muskrat Falls project. (Radio Canada)

Martin has continued his adamant streak in recent years as a vocal opponent of the Muskrat Falls project, particularly regarding the potential for landslides along the controversial North Spur, speaking out against the dangers of the project and author of the book “Muskrat Falls madness”.

He has also been a regular contributor to the Uncle Gnarley blog, commenting on local industry developments.

His most recent entry, review of wind turbine plans and Hydrogen Production on the West Coast of Newfoundland, was published just four days before his death.

In it, he questions the environmental impacts of proposed projects and, as he has always done, warns of the dangers of separating the resources of Newfoundland and Labrador from the people who live there:

“EA is not just a set of regulations requiring the collection of information,” Martin said, “but is fundamentally also a democratic process in which the public has the right to be informed and to be involved. – and to be taken seriously.”

As for his legacy, Tom Rideout said Martin’s work has directly led to an improved quality of life for people in the province.

“Those of us who know him know how hard he worked to make sure we didn’t stumble,” Rideout said. “I mean, it’s easy for politicians and people who don’t have Cabot’s courage to stumble.”

“He spent a lot of time keeping us all on the straight and narrow and made sure we didn’t lose our focus or our vision.”

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